A Grain of Sand

If you only have one day to live, how do you spend the moment? Often, we hear the advice, saying, “Live as if it is your last day” or “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

Also, some suggest that we consider our lives as “one day” instead of 80 or 90 years of our life span. In the morning to noon, we are from our childhood to adulthood. In the afternoon, we work hard for our family and society; in the evening, approaching old age, then finally, at night, we inevitably be aware of our death. And, saying “good night” means leaving this world.

We also hear the so-called Earth’s Calendar. It is an attempt to compress the entire 4.5 billion years of the earth’s age into 12 months. In doing so, 144 years would be one second. And we also realize that our human civilizations are such tiny newcomers. On December 31, there was still no sign of homo sapiens yet.

On that day, only around 23:55, our human civilizations began like Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans; at 23:58 and 43 seconds, Christian Era started, that is what we count it as 2020 this year. And, in the final 7 seconds only, we saw the exponential growth triggered by the industrial revolutions.

Also, we hear the so-called Cosmic Calendar. In the same manner, it is an attempt to visualize the chronology of the universe, scaling its current age of 13.8 billion years to a single year from the Big Bang to the present. In this case, around 500 years of our modern history was only 0.5 seconds at December 31, 23:59:59.

What is the implication of these scaling changes?

We can see 80 or 90 years of our life span as 24 hours, 4.5 billion years as 12 months, and 13.8 billion years as 12 months as well. In doing so, we can visualize the scale of time more intuitively and sense the very preciousness of time more realistically. That is true. But that is not the end of the story.

Another implication is that these various periods are, after all, under the realm of fractal scaling. It is merely one of the anthropometric efforts to generate somewhat dramatic, fictional stories to understand the universe within our cognitive limitation and our prison of self-consciousness.

Can we see the entire universe? No, we can’t. But at lease, we can see it through the map of the cosmos conceptually. Can we sense the age and the size of the entire universe? No, we can’t. But at least, we can see them through the mathematical numbers with their various scalings.

We can also see the earth age and our life spans in the same manner. That is the only way that we can comprehend our lives, the world, and the cosmos. Put it bluntly, we could see them only through the “fictional” stories, which are supposedly “legitimate” even by scientific articulations such as mathematical hypotheses, well, which are, by itself, not provable.

All these attempts are, after all, not so different from the variations of writing poets. We can recall these lines of William Blake.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

Or even the following words of Pascal.

Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapour, a drop of water is enough to kill him. but even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he knows that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows none of this.

Pensées by Blaise Pascal

Can we say that our sense of spacetime is, after all, for us to create our unique stories – whether scientific or poetic, whether mythical, religious, metaphysical, spiritual, or mystical, whatever the genre of the story could be? And through these stories, then, we could scarcely sense a glimpse of what could be beyond them.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Image by analogicus

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